SPOKANE, Washington – To most observers in this frenzied first week of school at Gonzaga University, today’s early morning delivery to the Boone Avenue Retail Center was simply another truckload of produce to be chopped, diced, sautéed and served across campus by Zag Dining by Sodexo. But for those gathered at the BARC loading dock, especially Jim Simon, Gonzaga’s first director of sustainability, the shipment represents a milestone in Gonzaga’s efforts to provide the freshest, most sustainable food for students, faculty and staff.
The first delivery from the Local Inland Northwest Cooperative Growers (LINC) marks the fruition of an innovative and intentional partnership by Gonzaga with local farmers and Zag Dining. On April 30, Gonzaga became the first of the nation’s 28 Jesuit universities to commit to the “Real Food Challenge,” a pledge that 25 percent of food served on campus will be sourced from ecologically sound, fair and humane, and local- and community-based providers by 2020. Breanne Flynn, a 2014 Gonzaga alumna, and other members of the student club Gonzaga Ethical Awareness Together (Gonzaga E.A.T.) had advocated for this commitment for two years.
LINC Growers employs a co-op model to allow small, local farms access to the Zag Dining supply chain. Previously, a local farmer may not have produced enough tomatoes, for example, for Zag Dining’s needs. Now, that farmer joins with other producers in the co-op to help meet Zag Dining’s produce needs.
“LINC is an encouraging step toward supporting our local food economy and meeting our commitments to the Real Food Challenge and our Climate Action Plan,” says Simon. “It is exciting to know that local farmers who are part of the program can finally see their harvest on the plates of thousands of Zags this fall and beyond!”
“Supporting LINC Growers is an important part of Zag Dining’s long term commitment to sustainability,” said Chuck Faulkinberry, district manager of Zag Dining by Sodexo. “We look forward to many more deliveries of fresh, local produce from our farmers.”
The national Real Food Challenge aims to shift existing university food budgets away from unhealthy processed food toward healthier organic and locally produced “Real Food” products. The initiative leverages youth and universities to create a more healthy and fair food system.